As the long-delayed Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC works toward a target in-service date in the second half of 2023, the developer will have to wait until at least next summer to receive an updated environmental review from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).

Mountain Valley Pipeline

The USFS plans to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS) for the 303-mile MVP’s roughly 3.5-mile crossing of the Jefferson National Forest. A draft version of that document is scheduled for a January release, according to a notice published earlier this month in the Federal Register.

The final supplemental EIS is expected by next summer, according to the agency.

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The USFS was sent back to the drawing board after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit this past January vacated the agency’s decision to authorize the natural gas conduit’s planned crossing of national forest lands.

The USFS had issued the vacated authorization in January 2021 after developing an earlier supplemental environmental review in 2020. That process was set in motion after the Fourth Circuit vacated the agency’s 2017 approval of the embattled pipeline project.

The USFS said the latest environmental review will address issues raised by the Fourth Circuit related to the National Forest Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

MVP, a joint venture of EQM Midstream Partners LP, NextEra Capital Holdings Inc., Con Edison Transmission Inc., WGL Midstream, and RGC Midstream LLC, has said it remains “committed to working diligently with federal and state regulators to secure the necessary permits to safely and responsibly finish construction, and we remain committed to bringing” the project “into service in the second half of 2023.”

In light of a related decision needed from the Bureau of Land Management that depends on the USFS completing its updated environmental review, the schedule outlined by USFS could make it difficult for MVP to achieve its target next year, according to analysts at ClearView Energy Partners LLC.

“MVP’s target completion looks unattainable unless the Forest Service completes its supplemental EIS ahead of its current schedule,” the ClearView analysts wrote in a note to clients. “Given the controversy over the project, that appears unlikely.”